Wealth and Want
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The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from off the goose.

-- 17th century protest against English enclosure

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.

2. The rich man in the castle, the poor man at the gate,
God made them high or lowly, and ordered their estate.


The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying, “This is mine”, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society.
From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes, might not anyone have saved mankind by pulling up the stakes, filling in the ditch, and crying to his fellows, “BEWARE OF LISTENING TO THIS IMPOSTOR; YOU ARE UNDONE IF YOU ONCE FORGET THAT THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH BELONG TO US ALL, AND THE EARTH ITSELF TO NOBODY.”

a synopsis of Robert V. Andelson and James M. Dawsey: From Wasteland to Promised land: Liberation Theology for a Post-Marxist World
Because George asserted, "We must make land common property," he is sometimes erroneously regarded as an advocate of land nationalization. But, as we have seen, he was nothing of the sort. The expropriation of land makes it practically impossible to fairly compensate people for the improvements to land, which are their legitimate property. George's system renders to the community what is due to the community, without doing any violence to the wealth that has been fairly earned by productive workers.

Common property in land is sometimes discredited by equation with what Garrett Hardin calls "The Tragedy of the Commons." Referring to the common lands that were a major English institution until the mid-nineteenth century, Hardin describes the tendency of individuals, each rationally pursuing self-interest, to overgraze, denude, and use the commons as a cesspool. That which belongs to everybody in this sense is, indeed, in danger of being valued and maintained by nobody.

The enclosure movement ultimately brought an end to this ecologically destructive process, but not without literally pushing people off the land, exacting a baneful price in human misery that might well be termed "The Tragedy of the Enclosures." George hit upon a way of securing the benefits of both commons and enclosures, while at the same time avoiding their evils. Land value taxation rectifies distribution so that all receive wealth in proportion to their contribution to its production. This liberates the economic system from exploiters who contribute little or nothing. Apportioning the wealth pie fairly increases the incentive to increase the size of the pie. The market becomes in practice what capitalist theory alleges it to be -- a profoundly cooperative process of voluntary exchange of goods and services. Paradoxical though it may seem, the only way the individual may be assured what properly belongs to him or her is for society to take what properly belongs to it: The ideal of Jeffersonian individualism requires for its actualization the socialization of rent.

Just as Marxists err in insisting that everything be socialized, extreme capitalists err in insisting that everything (even public parks and forests!) be privatized. The middle way is to recognize society's claim to what nature and society create -- the value of land and its rent -- so that working people, including entrepreneurs, may claim their full share of what they create. In this balanced approach can be found the authentic verities respectively inherent in socialism and individualism.  Read the whole synopsis

Henry George: The Condition of Labor — An Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII in response to Rerum Novarum (1891)

Your use, in so many passages of your Encyclical, of the inclusive term “property” or “private” property, of which in morals nothing can be either affirmed or denied, makes your meaning, if we take isolated sentences, in many places ambiguous. But reading it as a whole, there can be no doubt of your intention that private property in land shall be understood when you speak merely of private property. With this interpretation, I find that the reasons you urge for private property in land are eight. Let us consider them in order of presentation. You urge:

1. That what is bought with rightful property is rightful property. (RN, paragraph 5) ...
2. That private property in land proceeds from man’s gift of reason. (RN, paragraphs 6-7.) ...
3. That private property in land deprives no one of the use of land. (RN, paragraph 8.) ...
4. That Industry expended on land gives ownership in the land itself. (RN, paragraphs 9-10.) ...
5. That private property in land has the support of the common opinion of mankind, and has conduced to peace and tranquillity, and that it is sanctioned by Divine Law. (RN, paragraph 11.) ...
6. That fathers should provide for their children and that private property in land is necessary to enable them to do so. (RN, paragraphs 14-17.) ...
7. That the private ownership of land stimulates industry, increases wealth, and attaches men to the soil and to their country. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...
8. That the right to possess private property in land is from nature, not from man; that the state has no right to abolish it, and that to take the value of landownership in taxation would be unjust and cruel to the private owner. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...

5. That private property in land has the support of the common opinion of mankind, and has conduced to peace and tranquillity, and that it is sanctioned by Divine Law. (11.)

Even were it true that the common opinion of mankind has sanctioned private property in land, this would no more prove its justice than the once universal practice of the known world would have proved the justice of slavery.

But it is not true. Examination will show that wherever we can trace them the first perceptions of mankind have always recognized the equality of right to land, and that when individual possession became necessary to secure the right of ownership in things produced by labor some method of securing equality, sufficient in the existing state of social development, was adopted. Thus, among some peoples, land used for cultivation was periodically divided, land used for pasturage and wood being held in common. Among others, every family was permitted to hold what land it needed for a dwelling and for cultivation, but the moment that such use and cultivation stopped any one else could step in and take it on like tenure. Of the same nature were the land laws of the Mosaic code. The land, first fairly divided among the people, was made inalienable by the provision of the jubilee, under which, if sold, it reverted every fiftieth year to the children of its original possessors.

Private property in land as we know it, the attaching to land of the same right of ownership that justly attaches to the products of labor, has never grown up anywhere save by usurpation or force. Like slavery, it is the result of war. It comes to us of the modern world from your ancestors, the Romans, whose civilization it corrupted and whose empire it destroyed.

It made with the freer spirit of the northern peoples the combination of the feudal system, in which, though subordination was substituted for equality, there was still a rough recognition of the principle of common rights in land. A fief was a trust, and to enjoyment was annexed some obligation. The sovereign, the representative of the whole people, was the only owner of land. Of him, immediately or mediately, held tenants, whose possession involved duties or payments, which, though rudely and imperfectly, embodied the idea that we would carry out in the single tax, of taking land values for public uses. The crown lands maintained the sovereign and the civil list; the church lands defrayed the cost of public worship and instruction, of the relief of the sick, the destitute and the wayworn; while the military tenures provided for public defense and bore the costs of war. A fourth and very large portion of the land remained in common, the people of the neighborhood being free to pasture it, cut wood on it, or put it to other common uses.

In this partial yet substantial recognition of common rights to land is to be found the reason why, in a time when the industrial arts were rude, wars frequent, and the great discoveries and inventions of our time unthought of, the condition of the laborer was devoid of that grinding poverty which despite our marvelous advances now exists. Speaking of England, the highest authority on such subjects, the late Professor Therold Rogers, declares that in the thirteenth century there was no class so poor, so helpless, so pressed and degraded as are millions of Englishmen in our boasted nineteenth century; and that, save in times of actual famine, there was no laborer so poor as to fear that his wife and children might come to want even were he taken from them. Dark and rude in many respects as they were, these were the times when the cathedrals and churches and religious houses whose ruins yet excite our admiration were built; the times when England had no national debt, no poor law, no standing army, no hereditary paupers, no thousands and thousands of human beings rising in the morning without knowing where they might lay their heads at night.

With the decay of the feudal system, the system of private property in land that had destroyed Rome was extended. As to England, it may briefly be said that the crown lands were for the most part given away to favorites; that the church lands were parceled among his courtiers by Henry VIII., and in Scotland grasped by the nobles; that the military dues were finally remitted in the seventeenth century, and taxation on consumption substituted; and that by a process beginning with the Tudors and extending to our own time all but a mere fraction of the commons were inclosed by the greater landowners; while the same private ownership of land was extended over Ireland and the Scottish Highlands, partly by the sword and partly by bribery of the chiefs. Even the military dues, had they been commuted, not remitted, would today have more than sufficed to pay all public expenses without one penny of other taxation.

Of the New World, whose institutions but continue those of Europe, it is only necessary to say that to the parceling out of land in great tracts is due the backwardness and turbulence of Spanish America; that to the large plantations of the Southern States of the Union was due the persistence of slavery there, and that the more northern settlements showed the earlier English feeling, land being fairly well divided and the attempts to establish manorial estates coming to little or nothing. In this lies the secret of the more vigorous growth of the Northern States. But the idea that land was to be treated as private property had been thoroughly established in English thought before the colonial period ended, and it has been so treated by the United States and by the several States. And though land was at first sold cheaply, and then given to actual settlers, it was also sold in large quantities to speculators, given away in great tracts for railroads and other purposes, until now the public domain of the United States, which a generation ago seemed illimitable, has practically gone. And this, as the experience of other countries shows, is the natural result in a growing community of making land private property. When the possession of land means the gain of unearned wealth, the strong and unscrupulous will secure it. But when, as we propose, economic rent, the “unearned increment of wealth,” is taken by the state for the use of the community, then land will pass into the hands of users and remain there, since no matter how great its value, its possession will be profitable only to users.

As to private property in land having conduced to the peace and tranquillity of human life, it is not necessary more than to allude to the notorious fact that the struggle for land has been the prolific source of wars and of lawsuits, while it is the poverty engendered by private property in land that makes the prison and the workhouse the unfailing attributes of what we call Christian civilization.

Your Holiness intimates that the Divine Law gives its sanction to the private ownership of land, quoting from Deuteronomy, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his house, nor his field, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything which is his.”

If, as your Holiness conveys, this inclusion of the words, “nor his field,” is to be taken as sanctioning private property in land as it exists today, then, but with far greater force, must the words, “his man-servant, nor his maid-servant,” be taken to sanction chattel slavery; for it is evident from other provisions of the same code that these terms referred both to bondsmen for a term of years and to perpetual slaves. But the word “field” involves the idea of use and improvement, to which the right of possession and ownership does attach without recognition of property in the land itself. And that this reference to the “field” is not a sanction of private property in land as it exists today is proved by the fact that the Mosaic code expressly denied such unqualified ownership in land, and with the declaration, “the land also shall not be sold forever, because it is mine, and you are strangers and sojourners with me,” provided for its reversion every fiftieth year; thus, in a way adapted to the primitive industrial conditions of the time, securing to all of the chosen people a foothold in the soil.

Nowhere in fact throughout the Scriptures can the slightest justification be found for the attaching to land of the same right of property that justly attaches to the things produced by labor. Everywhere is it treated as the free bounty of God, “the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” ... read the whole letter

Rev. A. C. Auchmuty: Gems from George, a themed collection of excerpts from the writings of Henry George (with links to sources)

THE tax upon land values is the most just and equal of all taxes. It falls only upon those who receive from society a peculiar and valuable benefit, and upon them in proportion to the benefit they receive. It is the taking by the community, for the use of the community, of that value which is the creation of the community. It is the application of the common property to common uses. When all rent is taken by taxation for the needs of the community, then will the equality ordained by nature be attained. No citizen will have an advantage over any other citizen save as is given by his industry, skill, and intelligence; and each will obtain what he fairly earns. Then, but not till then, will labor get its full reward, and capital its natural return. — Progress & Poverty — Book VIII, Chapter 3, Application of the Remedy: The Proposition Tried by the Canons of Taxation

HERE is a provision made by natural law for the increasing needs of social growth; here is an adaptation of nature by virtue of which the natural progress of society is a progress toward equality not toward inequality; a centripetal force tending to unity growing out of and ever balancing a centrifugal force tending to diversity. Here is a fund belonging to society as a whole, from which without the degradation of alms, private or public, provision can be made for the weak, the helpless, the aged; from which provision can be made for the common wants of all as a matter of common right to each. — Social Problems — Chapter 19, The First Great Reform

NOT only do all economic considerations point to a tax on land values as the proper source of public revenues; but so do all British traditions. A land tax of four shillings in the pound of rental value is still nominally enforced in England, but being levied on a valuation made in the reign of William III, it amounts in reality to not much over a penny in the pound. With the abolition of indirect taxation this is the tax to which men would naturally turn. The resistance of landholders would bring up the question of title, and thus any movement which went so far as to propose the substitution of direct for indirect taxation must inevitably end in a demand for the restoration to the British people of their birthright. — Protection or Free Trade— Chapter 27: The Lion in the Way - econlib 

THE feudal system, which is not peculiar to Europe but seems to be the natural result of the conquest of a settled country by a race among whom equality and individuality are yet strong, clearly recognized, in theory at least, that the land belongs to society at large, not to the individual. Rude outcome of an age in which might stood for right as nearly as it ever can (for the idea of right is ineradicable from the human mind, and must in some shape show itself even in the association of pirates and robbers), the feudal system yet admitted in no one the uncontrolled and exclusive right to land. A fief was essentially a a trust, and to enjoyment was annexed obligation. The sovereign, theoretically the representative of the collective power and rights of the whole people, was in feudal view the only absolute owner of land. And though land was granted to individual possession, yet in its possession were involved duties, by which the enjoyer of its revenues was supposed to render back to the commonwealth an equivalent for the benefits which from the delegation of the common right he received. — Progress &Poverty — Book VII, Chapter 4, Justice of the Remedy: Private Property in Land Historically Considered

THE abolition of the military tenures in England by the Long Parliament, ratified after the accession of Charles II, though simply an appropriation of public revenues by the feudal landowners, who thus got rid of the consideration on which they held the common property of the nation, and saddled it on the people at large in the taxation of all consumers, has been long characterized, and is still held up in the law books, as a triumph of the spirit of freedom. Yet here is the source of the immense debt and heavy taxation of England. Had the form of these feudal dues been simply changed into one better adapted to the changed times, English wars need never have occasioned the incurring of debt to the amount of a single pound, and the labor and capital of England need not have been taxed a single farthing for the maintenance of a military establishment. All this would have come from rent, which the landholders since that time have appropriated to themselves — from the tax which land ownership levies on the earnings of labor and capital. The landholders of England got their land on terms which required them even in the sparse population of Norman days to put in the field, upon call, sixty thousand perfectly equipped horsemen, and on the further condition of various fines and incidents which amounted to a considerable part of the rent. It would probably be a low estimate to put the pecuniary value of these various services and dues at one-half the rental value of the land. Had the landholders been kept to this contract and no land been permitted to be inclosed except upon similar terms, the income accruing to the nation from English land would today be greater by many millions than the entire public revenues of the United Kingdom. England today might have enjoyed absolute free trade. There need not have been a customs duty, an excise, license or income tax, yet all the present expenditures could be met, and a large surplus remain to be devoted to any purpose which would conduce to the comfort or well-being of the whole people. — Progress &Poverty — Book VII, Chapter 4, Justice of the Remedy: Private Property in Land Historically Considered

... go to "Gems from George"

Dan Sullivan: Are you a Real Libertarian, or a ROYAL Libertarian?

John Locke is often misrepresented by royal libertarians, who quote him very selectively. For example, Locke did say that:

Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.

But Locke condemned anyone who took more than he needed as a "spoiler of the commons":

...if the fruits rotted, or the venison putrified, before he could spend it, he offended against the common law of nature, and was liable to be punished; he invaded his neighbour's share, for he had no right, farther than his use called for any of them, and they might serve to afford him conveniences of life.

The same measures governed the possession of land too: whatsoever he tilled and reaped, laid up and made use of, before it spoiled, that was his peculiar right; whatsoever he enclosed, and could feed, and make use of, the cattle and product was also his. But if either the grass of his enclosure rotted on the ground, or the fruit of his planting perished without gathering, and laying up, this part of the earth, notwithstanding his enclosure, was still to be looked on as waste, and might be the possession of any other.

Locke also restricted appropriation of land by the proviso, ignored by royal libertarians, that there must be still enough, and as good left; and more than the yet unprovided could use. So that, in effect, there was never the less left for others because of his enclosure for himself: for he that leaves as much as another can make use of, does as good as take nothing at all.

Now if the situation is that there is enough free land, and as good, left after you take and cultivate your land, than your land has no market value, for who would pay you for land that is not better than land that can be had for free? So, besides the fact that Locke's justification of privatizing land is far more limited than royal libertarians portray it to be, it is irrelevant to the question of land value tax, as it applies only to land that has no value.

Furthermore, Locke based his scenario on pre-monetary societies, where a landholder would find that "it was useless, as well as dishonest, to carve himself too much, or take more than he needed." With the introduction of money, Locke noted, all land quickly became appropriated. Why? Because with money, those who can take more land than they have personal use for suddenly have reason to do so, as between them they will have taken all the land, and others will have to pay rent to them. So, with the introduction of money, the Lockean rationale for landed property falls apart, even according to Locke.

And while Locke did not propose a remedy specifically for to this problem, he repeatedly stated that all taxes should be on real estate. ... Read the whole piece


Bill Batt: How Our Towns Got That Way   (1996 speech)

One must start by looking at how the meaning of the word property has changed over the course of centuries. In most societies of the world, as was true in classic western thought, property typically meant personal property - clothing, household goods, bodily adornments and armor, and similar such items. Land was typically owned by society in common, or perhaps belonged to God or nature. Roman law made some effort to allot land titles to private individuals and families, but it was honored more in theory than in fact. Indeed, it was not until the now well-documented "enclosure movement" in early Tudor England that land titles began their long transformation from what has been termed "leasehold" to "freehold." Against the will of the King and his Council, noblemen seized the land for themselves, marking it into defined units, fenced off in their names only, even when they had no use for it. Karl Polanyi noted that: Enclosures have appropriately been called a revolution of the rich against the poor. The lords and nobles were upsetting the social order, breaking down ancient law and custom, sometimes by means of violence, often by pressure and intimidation. They were literally robbing the poor of their share in the common, tearing down the houses which, by the hitherto unbreakable force of custom, the poor had long regarded as theirs and their heirs'. The fabric of society was being disrupted; desolate villages and the ruins of human dwellings testified to the fierceness with which the revolution raged, endangering the defenses of the country, wasting its towns, decimating its population, turning its overburdened soil into dust, harassing its people and turning them from decent husbandmen into a mob of beggars and thieves. ... read the whole article

Bill Batt: The Compatibility of Georgist Economics and Ecological Economics

Lastly, one must appreciate that the market value of “land” of every sort is entirely rent, as there is no human factor of labor that accounts for its origination. Services of nature have no prior cost to bring them into production existence — the electromagnetic spectrum, for example, exists regardless of human presence on earth and so presumably does time. Ocean fish, fossil fuels, and heavy metals are all found in nature, not the result of human creation. They are, in 19th century classical economics, the fruits not of man’s labor but of God’s. And it is to God, or at least to God’s representative on earth — the lords and kings — that rent was owed, just as much as it was their role to provide reciprocal services to the tenants of the land. That bargain, so well refined in feudal economic arrangements, was an equilibrium balance, disrupted, one might say, by the annulment of rent collection and the exploitation of land without recognition of its price. The practice effectively ended with what in Britain is known as the “enclosure movement” of the early Tudor reign, driving the peasants off the land into cities to provide cheap labor for the early English industrialists.28 But the theory continued long afterwards. Georgists today argue that land rent should be collected from titleholders so that it is not left to render economic distortions. This in turn affects the price of labor and the price of money. Government’s role, whatever else it does, is at the very least responsible for defending the commons, to ascertain titles and to collect rent. Although there are many differences about the proper role, scope and domain of government among Georgist adherents, the collection of rent and the supervision of open markets is central to its tenets. ... read the whole article

Peter Barnes: Capitalism 3.0 — Chapter 1: Time to Upgrade (pages 3-14)

If you heard about the commons before you picked up this book, your impressions were probably shaped by a 1968 article called “The Tragedy of the Commons.” In that article, biologist Garrett Hardin used the metaphor of an unmanaged pasture to suggest a root cause of many planetary problems.

The rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another. . . . But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit — in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest. . . . Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

Hardin’s notion of tragedy was taken from philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, who in turn drew upon Aristotle. According to Whitehead, the essence of tragedy is “the remorseless working of things.” In Hardin’s view, commons are fated to self-destruct. There’s nothing humans can do in the context of the commons to halt this inexorable outcome.

Hardin was right about humanity’s unrelenting destruction of nature, but wrong about its cause and inexorability. He blamed the commons itself, when the true destroyer was, and remains, forces outside the commons. In Hardin’s hypothetical, the commons does nothing to protect itself against those forces. It’s completely unmanaged. But there’s no inherent reason why commons can’t be managed as commons.

Contrary to the picture painted by Hardin, medieval European commons (which included not only pastures but forests and streams) were far from unmanaged. They had rules barring access to outsiders and limiting use by villagers. For example, a rule that persists today in many Swiss villages is that villagers can’t graze in common pasture more animals than they can feed over winter on their own land. A managed commons, in other words, isn’t inherently self-destructive. The real danger to the commons is enclosure and trespass by outsiders. ... read the whole chapter

Peter Barnes: Capitalism 3.0 — Chapter 2: A Short History of Capitalism (pages 15-32)

Enclosure, in which property rights are literally taken or given away, is half the reason for the commons’ decline; the other half is a form of trespass called externalizing — that is, shifting costs to the commons. Externalizing is as relentless as enclosure, yet much less noticed, since it requires no active aid from politicians. It occurs quietly and continuously as corporations add illth to the commons without permission or payment.

The one-two punch of enclosure and externalizing is especially potent. With one hand, corporations take valuable stuff from the commons and privatize it. With the other hand, they dump bad stuff into the commons and pay nothing. The result is profits for corporations but a steady loss of value for the commons. ... read the whole chapter

Peter Barnes: Capitalism 3.0 — Chapter 8: Sharing Culture (pages 117-134)

So far I’ve focused on the commons of nature and community. In this chapter I explore the third fork of the commons river, culture. By this I mean the gifts of language, art, and science we inherit, plus the contributions we make as we live.

Culture is a joint undertaking — a co-production — of individuals and society. The symphonies of Mozart, like the songs of Lennon and McCartney, are works of genius. But they also arise from the culture in which that genius lives. The instrumentation, the notation system, and the prevalent musical forms are the dough from which composers bake their cakes. So too with ideas. All thinkers and writers draw on stories and discoveries that have been developed by countless men and women before them. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, each generation sees a little farther because it stands on the shoulders of its predecessors. In this way, all new work draws from the commons and then enriches it. To keep art and science flourishing, we have to make sure the cultural commons is cared for.

In addition, unlike most natural commons, the cultural commons is inexhaustible. Shakespeare’s plays can be “used” again and again without diminishing them. The same is true of Newton’s theories, Beethoven’s string quartets, and the information on the World Wide Web. Indeed, the more we use these assets, the more value they bestow. And thanks to technology — from Gutenberg’s press to Marconi’s radio to the globe-spanning Internet — sharing this wealth has become increasingly easy.

Today, unfortunately, this cultural commons, like the commons of nature and community, is being enclosed by private corporations. The danger is that corporations will deplete the soil in which culture grows. The remedy is to reinvigorate the cultural commons. ... read the whole chapter




see also: http://www.poclad.org/articles/zepernick02.html

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Wealth and Want
... because democracy alone hasn't yet led to a society in which all can prosper